DVD Release Date:  September 4, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  May 11, 2007
Rating: R (for sexual content and some language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time: 113 min.
Director: Gary Marshall
Actors: Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund, and Hector Elizondo

If you watch the trailer for Georgia Rule, you might think (as I did), “Cool!  Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan in a sweet, funny movie with multi-generational women trying to get along . . . must be a Freaky Friday–type, fun, mindless escapism movie to take the daughters to. . . .”  Well, it’s not . . . and please don’t. 

It’s a super-heavy downer with a high cringe factor and a steady infusion of crassness and perversion. Yes, there are important lessons to be learned about tuning into the root causes of our kids’ behaviors and telling them we love them, but it’s not worth the ride to get there.

Georgia Rule spotlights Rachel, (Lohan), a rebellious, mouthy teen whose mother, Lilly, (Felicity Huffman) drags her, kicking and screaming, to spend the summer with her grandmother, Georgia (Fonda), whose staunch ways and “Georgia rule(s)” are the last hope for transforming the teen.  Much to Rachel’s horror, the small Mormon town in Idaho is the opposite picture of her own life.  The Idaho girls dress conservatively, whereas Rachel flaunts mini-dresses and see-through lace tops.  The other teens sing hymns while Rachel curses up a storm and tries to seduce guys from 16 to 32, including the town’s doctor (Dermot Mulroney).  The best-looking guy in town (Garrett Hedlund) is a virgin, whereas Rachel knows every trick in the book and is happy to teach her new Mormon friend the art of oral sex.

Meanwhile, Grandma, whose favorite punishment—to dole out to kids and adults alike—is making people put a bar of soap in their mouths, begins to see that there might be some underlying wounds in Rachel that no soap will fix.  And Lilly gets a phone call that brings her on the first plane from San Francisco to deal with Rachel and figure out the truth about an outrageous claim she’s making.  As the summer unfolds, so do some dark and horrifying secrets that Mom and Grandma must sort through to remedy some powerful generational patterns.

Georgia Rule could have been an amazing movie.  The acting is impeccable, and the bones of a great story are there. But the end doesn’t justify the means—as the reviewer sitting next to me moaned, “Oh, this is just too much.  What is this rated?”  It’s not worth polluting our brains, or our kids’ brains, with a bunch of lewdness in order to drive home the point that there is a “root to the fruit” we see in kids’ behavior.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the movie deals with certain types of abuse and shows how a child living with that might manifest certain behaviors.  But, as my 16-year-old daughter said afterward, “This movie is so extreme. I don’t know anyone at my [large, public, multi-cultural school] that acts that crass and slutty.”  We’re all for coming away with good lessons about tuning in to each other and walking in forgiveness, but this movie leaves you with a sad feeling and a boatload of images we might just wish had not been added to our gray matter.

It’s sad that the over-the-top portrayals could not have been softened.  Jane Fonda, a relatively new Christian believer, has a special compassion for teen girls and the issues they face as they search out their identity, so it’s unfortunate not to be able to recommend this well-acted, often humorous movie to families.

As to the worldview issues, Georgia Rule portrays a lot of religion without relationship.  The Fonda character is all about rules and fearing God, and though she successfully bridges the gap through sheer determination and becomes real in her emotions and relationships, none of the resolution comes through prayer or a real sense of God’s intervention.  So, the women, and not God, get the credit for any healing that takes place.  Also, the Mormon girlfriend in the movie is portrayed as plain, frumpy, religious and boring, and her sisters are legalistic spies.

The end result of Georgia Rule is a painful look at a heavy, heavy issue and a probable regret about what had to be seen and heard in order to get the lesson that unfolds.

AUDIENCE:  Older teens and adults

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Mother is an alcoholic who consumes multiple bottles of hard liquor.
  • Language: Excessive, with a couple dozen obscenities and profanities. Several very crass statements are made by protagonist about boys’ anatomy, etc.
  • Sex: Several sex scenes alluded to, without showing nudity.  Oral sex discussed and solicited, and scantily clad girl seduces boys and men several times.   
  • Violence: None.
  • World View: Religion without relationship with God portrayed, though it’s a religious town and there’s plenty of “God talk.”  Resolution comes from women’s’ sheer determination to relate, rather than through prayer and portrayals of God’s intervention.